China struggling with environmental issuesA few months ago I wrote about how pollution was now the #1 cause of social unrest in China. Well, it's not that surprising considering the stream of news out of the country (f.ex. thousands of diseased dead pigs found in a river upstream from Shanghai). The latest scandal has to do with Guangzhou, a huge metropolis in the South of the country: Testing by government employees has found that nearly half the samples from the region's rice supply were contaminated by cadmium, an extremely toxic metal that can damage the kidneys, liver, and cause cancer.
This doesn't mean that literally half the rice in Guangzhou is deadly, but the incident is just one out of many (lead and arsenic are also often found in food), and the lack of transparency about health risks is eroding confidence in the authorities when it comes to environmental issues like this one.
"First water, then the air we breathe, and now the earth. How can people still survive?" wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging service. "I suppose we can always move abroad or to outer space."
Hopefully all this anger and frustration will result into constructive changes. It's harder for it to influence policy directly in a non-democratic system, but it can still result in meaningful changes when it comes to protecting the water, air, and soil, if only because more social unrest is the last thing the leaders in China want.
What's the source of the contamination? The rice came from Hunan Province where factories and mines operate next to rice paddies. It's not a huge leap to think that industrial pollution is to blame.